- Who will challenge Lynnwood?
The Royals ran away with the Wesco 4A South a season ago and are the favorites to win it again this season, meaning the most likely competition will come from the teams just below them in the standings.
Jackson has a new head coach in Mark Haner, who took over for Jeannie Boyer after she resigned following last season. A healthy Kelli Kingma should make the Timberwolves more of a threat to the Royals than they were a year ago.
Lynnwood finished three games ahead of the Timberwolves in league play, but dominated both meetings between the two teams, winning by 25 in mid-December and by 13 in late-January.
Haner said the Timberwolves will play more of an uptempo game this season and will look to be more aggressive — a style similar to the Royals.
Last year’s third-place finisher Edmonds-Woodway should be improved this year as well. Rebekah Wells takes over at head coach for Duane Hodges and has a talented group of players led by Natalie Kasper and Sidney Eck.
Edwards expects both teams to be a challenge for his Royals.
“They are going to give us more than I’m sure we can handle,” he said. “They both have new coaches and new schemes so the whole scout plan is thrown out of the window”
- Can Natalie Kasper lead the league in scoring?
Following in the footsteps of a talented older sibling can be difficult, but Edmonds-Woodway guard Natalie Kasper has handled it quite nicely. Her older sister Madeline starred for the Warriors for four years and the younger sister hasn’t missed a beat, proving to be one of the best shooters in Wesco.
Last season against Mountlake Terrace, she put up 25 in a half and did it by knocking down 3s from well beyond the arc.
“She has what I see as an effortless 3-point shot,” Wells said. “She’s mostly known for her 3-point shot, but she can also drive and shoot and hit jumpers.”
Unlike most years, Kasper wasn’t able to compete this past summer because she was rehabbing an injury which Wells said has her more excited than ever for the start of the season.
Kasper isn’t the Warriors only offensive threat, which makes it more likely she will be able to have high-scoring games throughout the season – perhaps even surpass players like Jackson’s Kelli Kingma and Lynnwood’s Jasmin Edwards for the league scoring title.
“I don’t think that’s on top of her mind,” Wells said. “I think it’s just easy for her. If she thought about it too much I don’t think it would happen as easily. I think it would just come to her naturally and if it happens it happens.”
The Starting 5: The Herald’s Preseason All-League Team
- G Jasmin Edwards, Sr., Lynnwood: The returning Wesco 4A South Player of the Year is the unquestioned leader of the Royals’ offense and should be near the top of the league in scoring, assists and steals this season.
- G Kelli Kingma, Sr., Jackson: After missing most of last season with a torn ACL, the UW commit returns for her senior season looking to help the Timberwolves get back to state.
- G Sierra Anderson, Sr., Jackson: The senior guard helped fill the void last season while Kingma was out. Anderson, along with Faithaleen Lopez-Flores and a healthy Kingma, give the Timberwolves three legitimate scoring threats.
- P Mikayla Pivec, So., Lynnwood: As a freshman, Pivec burst onto the scene and was named to the All-Wesco South first-team. She is poised to have an even better sophomore season after working on her strength and shooting in the offseason.
- P Jordyn Edwards, So., Lynnwood: Edwards has emerged from the shadow of her older sister Jasmin and become one of the key contributors for Lynnwood on both ends of the floor. The sophomore is versatile and can play all five positions.
Player to watch: Kelli Kingma, Jackson
Kingma wears a brace on her surgically repaired knee, but that didn’t appear to be slowing her down when Jackson held its first practice of the year Nov. 15.
“It’s feeling really good,” Kingma said. “(The recovery process) has been really long, but I can’t wait to be playing. It feels really nice to be running around and doing all that.”
Kingma said she feels 100 percent and is pain free, which should strike fear into most other teams in Wesco. The guard is one of the most talented players in the league and immediately makes Jackson a threat to Lynnwood, the preseason favorite to win the league.
“She’s an unbelievably hard worker,” first-year Timberwolves coach Mark Haner said. “The nice thing is she’s got a lot around her.”
Guards Sierra Anderson and Faithaleen Lopez-Flores picked up the slack offensively for the Timberwolves a season ago. That added experience could be a blessing for the Timberwolves this season.
“We’ve got a lot of talented perimeter players to surround Kelli with,” Haner said. “So she doesn’t do a lot of heavy lifting. She can just go out there and play.”
Fresh Face: Monty Cooper, Jr., Lynnwood
Cooper joins an already loaded Royals team with aspirations of a state title and head coach Everett Edwards expects her to have an immediate impact.
“Monty Cooper brings an element of athleticism and strength,” Edwards said. “And when I say strength, she fast, but she’s also strong and she has a strong body. I really think she’s going to be impactful for us.”
The Royals don’t have a lot of height, but Linda Wilson provided a force inside for them a season ago. Wilson graduated in June, but Cooper should help fill the void.
“In terms of her strength she can definitely play that type of a role,” Edwards said.
Cooper is excited about her new role on such a talented team.
“I’m excited for season and to have victories with the new team and just keep having fun,” she said.